Amex cuts the value of its rewards cards but still beats the big banks in value

American Express, long the favourite for spenders chasing big rewards points balances, has today announced decreases across the earn rates of many cards in its rewards card range. But if you’re ready to trade in your Amex card, don’t be too hasty - amongst a trend of slipping rewards programs, it may still be one of the best value cards around.

Mozo data shows that rewards value has been steadily declining for the last two years, since the RBA made changes to interchange fees charged on credit cards. And Amex is just the latest in a long string of card providers making changes to rewards.

“There has been a lot of change in the rewards credit card market this year and with Amex now signalling an overhaul of its program, many people will be wondering how best to extract value from their card,” says Mozo Director Kirsty Lamont.

“While Amex card holders will see a decline in the value of the points they can earn from April next year, the good news our analysis shows their cards will still outperform the big four banks when it comes to delivering gift cards and flights.”

Mozo data shows that the average net value of an American Express card will fall 27% from its 2016 value when the changes come into effect next April - significantly less than the 89% average fall over the past two years suffered by the big four banks.

Average rewards net value across all rewards cards

You might be wondering what exactly that means when it comes to earning and redeeming rewards points on your American Express plastic. The answer is that you’ll need to spend more to get the same rewards - but Amex customers will still spend considerably less than big bank customers.

Even taking into account the changes to American Express’ points value and earn rates, Amex cardholders are still looking at a spend of $5,516 less than a big bank customer when it comes to a gift card, or $3,639 less for a free flight, on average.

How do Amex spends stack up against the big 4 banks?

“Although these are quite significant changes, it’s clear Amex still offers one of the best value rewards cards when compared to the big four banks. So if you love rewards, it’s worth doing your research to understand how much you’ll now have to spend on your card to earn a gift card or a flight,” Lamont said.

Changes to American Express rewards cards - effective 15 April 2019

So what exactly has changed? Here’s the nitty gritty of it.

The Amex Explorer Card, Platinum Edge Card and Essential Credit Card, which earn points in American Express’s own rewards program, emerged unscathed from the changes, but other airline cards in the American Express lineup dropped a quarter of a point per $1 spent.

How many points per $1 does an Amex card earn now?

The big change for the value of American Express rewards cards was not actually the earn rate, but the redemption value of the points earnt. For example, snagging a $100 gift card will now require 20,000 points to be redeemed, up from the previous 13,500.

For those converting to airline points, 1 point earnt on an American Express card can now be redeemed for 0.5 Velocity points, down from 1 Velocity point on the Platinum Edge Card and 0.75 Velocity points on the Essential and Explorer cards.

How much do you need to spend on American Express for a $100 gift card or domestic flight after April 15?

“These changes might come as a shock to the system, but when you look at the big picture, American Express cards are on the whole still really great value,” said Mozo Director Kirsty Lamont.

Key to getting top value from your rewards credit card is finding the piece of plastic that fits your spending style. You can check out the Mozo Rewards Revealer to find your match, or take a look at some rewards card options below.

*Rewards net value is derived by calculating the number of points earned based on an annual spend of $20,000, then calculating how many Syd-Mel one-way flights can be redeemed using the points earned. An assumed flight cost was used and the annual fee deducted to arrive at a rewards net value.

Hot rewards cards 2018 - last updated 26 February 2024

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